What to do when your doctor tells you to stop working out indefinitely. My journey to losing weight without exercising or dieting.
I am new to blogging and according to all the blogs on blogging I have already broken like 10 rules of “what not to do” but screw it! If you can bear with me through my very long intro, which talks all about myself, and I am sure contains a multitude of grammatical errors (all of which are supposably big no no’s) I promise my follow up blogs will be more to the point. I feel like the information in my intro is necessary to provide an understanding of why I am attempting to lose weight without diet or exercising. So here it goes:
I know there are an overwhelming number of blogs out there so I thought I would help the situation by adding another one. I am not an excellent writer and my grammar is far from perfect, but I felt compelled to share my story and my journey. In 1994 I entered into the world of competitive swimming, within a few years I began to excel at the sport, setting club records, obtaining qualifying times, and attending high level training camps with olympic coaches. I was swimming up to nine times a week. In the year 2000 I noticed a drastic decline in my performance. I went from having my top ten times in the 200 and 100 backstroke one month, to barely being able to walk the next month. It was discovered that I had a tumour wrapped around my spinal cord. Thankfully, It was not cancerous, but if it was not removed quickly it would snap my spinal cord and paralyze me. I was in for surgery within days of the diagnosis. The neurologists said that the surgery would prevent any further damage, but not to expect any improvement. At this point I was already struggling to walk. Thankfully I was in the hands of a very talented team of doctors. Surgery turned out to be a huge success. Not only was further damage prevented but I gained everything back. After three months of recovery I was back in the pool. However, I was never able to swim at the same level as I did before surgery.
I trained for another four years but found the pain to be too much. I transitioned in the sport I loved so much from an athlete to a coach. When I graduated from high school I went to university to pursue my science degree. I quickly realized that fitness was such an important and integral part of my life. I also realized that I did not enjoy science. As a result, I switched my studies and went to school for two years to become a personal fitness trainer (PFT). In 2008, I graduated with my PFT and immediately started working with clients, teaching bootcamps, and running some dryland programs for the swim club. I loved training but regretted not finishing my science degree, so I went back to complete my schooling, while continuing to train all of my incredible clients.
In 2012, my husband and I found out the very exciting news that we were expecting our first baby! As a PFT I knew the importance of staying fit through pregnancy. I made sure to workout 5 days a week. By week 15 of my pregnancy I noticed that I was having really bad heart palpations. I shrugged it off as a side effect of pregnancy with my blood volume doubling to support this precious new life. It began to get worse, while I was not worried I did mention it to my maternity doctor at the next appointment. She ordered a holter test. I heard nothing for three weeks so I assumed everything was fine. I continued to exercise. Three weeks after the test while at my grandfather’s funeral I received a phone call from the cardiac department saying to stop all physical activity immediately, and come in to the hospital as soon as possible. I spent a week in the hospital and I was put through many tests. I was told to cease all physical activity indefinitely. This news turned my world upside down. Fitness was literally my whole life. From swimming most of my life to making it a full time career.
The doctors were concerned that I may have a condition called arrythmogenic right ventricle cardiomyopathy (ARVC). This could only be confirmed through an MRI. However, due to the pregnancy they were unable to give me the contrast and the results ended up being inconclusive. Subsequently, I was sent for genetic testing to confirm the diagnosis.
My pregnancy transitioned from textbook to being high risk. I was placed on a high dosage of medication to attempt to stabilize my heart. When you are told not to eat sushi or sandwich meat during pregnancy, it feels like you are now putting your baby’s life in jeopardy. For the rest of the pregnancy my life became consumed with doctors appointments. When I went in for my 36 week checkup, there was a concern that my heart might not hold up much longer. I was admitted to the hospital and induced at 37 weeks. The delivery was intense, but on May 28th 2013 at 12:15 pm our precious baby girl Charlotte (Charley) was born. After another week in the hospital I was discharged and we were finally all together as a family. I went for another MRI with the contrast. The results came back at the end of July, The cardiologist said that based on the MRI I did not have ARVC. We were so relieved and very excited to put the chaos of the past few months behind us. Our sigh of relief was short lived. We had forgotten about the genetic testing. A month later our world came crashing down yet again. My genetic testing came back positive for a gene that is associated with ARVC. I was told that for the rest of my life I would not be able to do any vigorous activity or exercise other than light walking.
This disease has completely turned my life upside down. I am no longer allowed to exercise, my career as a personal trainer is over, I am not allowed to have anymore babies, and I have had to miss two of my best friend’s weddings as a result of not being allowed to travel. I am on more medication than most people over the age of 80. To add insult to injury I am no longer allowed to have any caffeine. Permanently removing coffee would be enough to send many people I know to therapy! I have gone through a time of grieving with the loss of the way life use to be. I am now learning to cope with my new reality.
On December 23rd I went in for surgery to have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) inserted into my heart. The ICD will not fix my heart but it will provide some assurance that I will not die from sudden cardiac death.
You are born with the genetic code, but in order for the disease to develop the perfect environment has to be established. The geneticist explained that while they cannot say for certain the cause of ARVC, they have seen in many cases a connection with patients who were high level athletes during their youth, and the development of the disease. If they were aware that I had the genetic code as a child It would have been recommended that I did not participate in intense physical activity. I did everything that I was suppose to. I adopted a lifestyle that was focused on the importance of being physically active. Who knew that exercise would be the root of my rare heart condition.
So what is the point of sharing my story. As a result of not being allowed to exercise for the rest of my life, I now have to manage my weight by some means other than fitness. Luckily nutrition is a key factor in weight loss. I have struggled with what my purpose is now that fitness has been taken off the table for me (other than being a mom to the most captivating little girl that I know). My hope is that I can encourage and teach others through my journey. I would never recommend a sedentary lifestyle or suggest that someone give up their exercise routine, but for myself it is no longer an option.
I invite you to follow me on my journey as I begin to workout the details of my new reality. Starting February 9th I am going to take very deliberate steps to manage my weight through diet alone and light walking. My doctor told me that I need to learn to enjoy the cooking process and that is exactly what I plan on doing. I will update you on all my progress including anthropometric measurements. My goal is to develop a 4 day meal plan each week. This weekly meal plan will include a grocery list, portion sizes, and recipes. I will post my meal plans each Friday so that if you would like some inspiration for yourself you can copy the plan for the following week.
I will be honest about my ups and downs, and let you know of tricks that I learn along the way to help control cravings and hopefully avoid the last minute snack before bed. This journey will most likely be comprised of tremendous success and epic fails. I promise I am not here to make it look easy. It will not be like all the fitness magazines that hire fitness models to do 5 exercise, promising that if you do this routine for 5 minutes a day you will look just like the hottie in the picture.
My meals and recipes will not follow any diet, I am not pro-Palaeolithic, pro-organic, pro-juicing, or whatever the latest movement happens to be. These approaches may be wonderful for some people. However, I am not trying to start a new diet trend. I am just planning on eating healthy and ensuring proper portion size. If I follow any sort of guideline it will be Canada’s Food Guide. My desire is to get back to the basics. I am going to return to the old-fashioned way of managing and losing weight before there was CrossFit and the Blood Type diet. Please feel free to follow my journey and ask me questions along the way.